Jones, Tobias - 'White Death'
WHITE DEATH is the second in Tobias Jones' series featuring Italian PI Castagnetti, Casta for short. The series is set in an nameless Northern Italian town, probably Parma. The title, WHITE DEATH, refers to the Italian term for deaths due to industrial accidents.
Casta has a new client, a factory owner who has received threatening phone calls and whose car has been burnt out. Casta assumes at first this is a near hopeless case of vandalism. But when he studies similar incidents, Casta realises there may be a conniving financial motive behind the campaign of intimidation, linked to the building trade and changes to local planning regulations. Despite the economic downturn, big money is still being made by property developers and their cronies as new sections of the city are rezoned as suitable for development. Casta soon uncovers a trail of death, crime and corruption behind the seeming respectability of the town planners, politicians and estate agents sharing in the after effects of the property boom. He strongly suspects that the "white death" of the title, is far from the typical case of employer neglect that it is trumpeted to be by the local press and left wingers.
Casta is an engaging hero in the loner PI mould, tenacious, courageous and determined to achieve some form of justice, having distanced himself from most people following the premature death of his parents in a car crash. He is physically less aggressive than in the first in the series, THE SALATI CASE, having suffered a permanent leg injury that slows him down a touch. He has also mellowed slightly, allowing a potential love interest, Gaia, a charming young witness, to penetrate his defences.
As well as being a highly readable page-turning thriller, WHITE DEATH is a convincing depiction of Italy by British writer Tobias Jones, following up the theme of his non-fiction work, THE DARK HEART OF ITALY, considering what can lie behind the beauty of many parts of Italy. This chronicle of corruption in the construction boom is a rather topical theme one suspects in many countries other than Italy.
Laura Root, England